Long stretches of golden beaches, rolling surf and mountains of precipitous dunes characterise the coast of the northern New South Wales. For jaw-dropping seascapes and the hinterland scenery, the region is a popular vacation gem for both Australians and foreigners.
The main access point to the subtropical North of NSW is Nelson Bay – locally known as a water sports paradise. Fingal Bay, Shoal Bay, Anna Bay and Soldier Bay offer world-renowned pleasure grounds. Port Stephens is the major hub typical of dense vegetation and abundant wildlife.
Great Lakes Marine National Park is home to dolphins, whales, turtles, sponge gardens, mangroves and salt marshes and it is well-known amongst all fans of boating, fishing and sea life.
For nature admirers, there are so many wonderful walking and mountain bike tracks around the bay that one could stay for weeks, and it would not be enough. Tomaree Headland Lookout with staggering views of the port`s offshore islands is the No 1.
Food lovers will surely be not left behind, and there is excellent home-grown produce in the region, such as fresh oysters, macadamias, figs, avocados, olives, boutique wines and craft brews.
However, the absolute highlight of Port Stephens is undisputedly the Worimi Conservation Lands and the gigantic Stockton Bight Sand Dunes. This is truly one of nature`s masterpieces, and the good thing that you can drive it!
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN PORT STEPHENS
Banana plantations, exotic birds, seaside holiday retreats and thriving jungles around Coffs Harbour indicate the close distance to the tropics. Covered with reserves and national parks and lush, verdant foliage, Coffs Harbour makes a wonderful destination.
Visiting Coffs Harbour – the Big Banana town, one should learn about the region`s natural marvels, and a good way to do so is paying a visit to the Butterfly House and Solitary Islands Marine Park.
A short trip southwards, down the Legendary Pacific Coast, the Nambucca Heads and South West Rocks can be visited, especially by the campers – there are some of the best camping spots in NSW.
Nature and wildlife lovers will want to explore the national parks and reserves around the Coffs Harbour. Bellingen NP is known for its river adventures and kayaking as well as frequent cultural events, Cascade NP has an outstanding mountain bike and hiking tracks, Bindarri NP teems with waterfalls, and the Bongil Bongil NP has brilliant beaches, walking tracks, campgrounds and koalas.
The greatest attraction of the region is absolutely the Dorrigo National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Area). Skyway Lookout offers an exceptional walk above the rainforest canopy that is a wonderful introduction to the tropical Queensland.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN COFFS HARBOUR
This gorgeous 30 kilometre stretch of sandy beaches is home to a small yet celebrated town – Byron Bay. Originally, the place was best known for its abattoir, and it used to be an ordinary working-class town. Later on, the area became popular with surfers, especially around the nearby Lennox Head.
Nowadays, “Byron” is a trendy hub famed across the whole country, and this is so not only for the Splendor in the Grass – Australia`s biggest winter festival.
The turning point was the 1970s when numbers of hippies had arrived, and the face of Byron Bay dramatically changed. As the community grew the town was prospering, and Byron Bay has become a popular hotspot for artists, free spirits, organic food lovers and fans of an eco-friendly environment. What once was associated with slaughterhouses and meat products, today it is a mecca for all vegans.
The alternative lifestyle is visible on every corner – New Age therapies to try, straightforward yoga, esoteric flotation tanks, quirky bookshops attached to the vegan cafes, Tarot readings, Indian massage and little crystal and gemstone shops. This vibrant place also attracted many craftspeople, writers and musicians, with numerous beguiling festivals and annual events.
In spite of all that, Byron Bay remains the little surfer`s paradise and a laid-back destination ideal for spending quiet time and relaxation.
Byron Bay welcomes both backpackers and wealthy holiday-makers since there is a wide choice of accommodation along the bay, varying from quiet bush campsites, B&B and hotels to the luxurious upscale resorts.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN BYRON BAY
WHEN TO TRAVEL
The North Coast has quite pleasant weather throughout the whole year. However, summer school holiday time (Dec-Feb) is always busy and accommodation often fully booked, the beaches crowded and you might well happen to get stuck in a traffic jam, especially around Byron Bay.
It is always recommended to travel outside the peak season (Oct-Nov and Mar-Apr) unless visiting festivals and special cultural events.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Sydney, drive northwards along the coastline – to Port Stephens (3 hrs), Coffs Harbour (6 hrs).
Although Byron Bay is 9 hrs away from Sydney by a car, there is the Ballina Byron Airport, well-connected to Sydney.
If you drive from Brisbane it will only take 2 hrs, or from Gold Coast around one hr drive.
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